Since July, 2015, India’s experience in T20I cricket has been nice. For every magnificent victory, there has been a grievous loss. At the starting of 2016 India whitewashed Australia in their own country followed by the Asia Cup triumph. There have been satisfying series victories over Sri Lanka and England over the past year.
But these successes have been moderated by losing in the World T20 semi-final at home.The latest of the breakdown was the hammering by Australia in Guwahati last month. The failure to win that series jeopardised India’s ‘Mission 111’ at least for the time being. It is no wonder then that India find themselves wheedle in the middle rungs of the T20I rankings.
India can reclaim some of their lost ground with a favourable result in the series against New Zealand, and a 3-0 sweep can catapult them from a middling fifth to second on the T20I charts. That would give Kohli’s boys a strong head start to make a dash for the No 1 spot when they face Sri Lanka at home later this year in a three-match series.
There’s a lot at stake for India in this series and they will be eager to put their best foot forward when they take the field against the Kiwis at New Delhi’s Feroze Shah Kotla on Wednesday. However, things won’t be easy against a team that has historically been a tough nut to crack in limited-overs cricket. They are deservedly perched on top of the T20I charts, and have a 100 percent win record against the hosts in T20Is over five meetings so far.
India will be assured by the fact that their batting guns Kohli and Rohit Sharma are both among the runs. Kohli slammed two hundreds in three matches in ODI series and stitched together his fourth 200-run partnership in ODIs with Rohit in the last match in Kanpur — the highest for a pair in ODI cricket. Rohit, in the process, notched up a sparkling 100 as well.
Kohli and Co will remember that the last time the two teams met, in the 2016 World T20, India were completely wipe-out, getting bowled out for an complete 79, chasing 127. The heroes of that match, spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, are both part of the current New Zealand squad and both of them should ideally start on a pitch that is expected to offer them some purchase.
The bowlers have also been doing their job with the greatest expertise, and pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, and their spin-bowling counterparts, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, with good support from Axar Patel from time to time have ensured the opposition is not allowed to get away easily. One remembers Bumrah and Chahal powering India to a come-from-behind series win against England earlier this year.
Shikhar Dhawan will, however, look to get his silken touch with the bat back. He has been having difficulties to hit the right notes of late, but looked to be getting back into his groove in the second one-dayer against the Kiwis in Pune. He is expected to be Rohit’s opening partner, unless Kohli wants to push himself up the order, or wants to give KL Rahul a go.
India: Virat Kohli (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Mohammed Siraj, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (C), Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner.